Onions – Short, Intermediate, and Long Day Varieties

Thin neck onions

Thin neck onions - probably "short day"

My records indicate that I planted short, intermediate, and long-day onions at the church gardens on April 2, 6, and 9.    The onions in the images were harvested on June 24.  That is 83 days to maturity,  assuming they were planted on April 2,  or 76 days if planted on April 9.   I didn’t record which variety I harvested so I can only guess whether these are short, intermediate, or long day onions.   Dixondale Farms says that short day onions planted in late spring in northern states mature around 75 days which leads me to believe that these are probably short day onions.  Of course the onions I dug aren’t necessarily at full maturity; I still don’t know enough about onions to know when to dig them.  Some I have harvested because I planted my onions on 2″ spacing, planning to harvest every other onion for green onions.  That plan didn’t exactly work out.  Some grew too big to be green onions and began crowding their neighbors.  I figured if the bulb was showing and the tops were starting to flop, I might as well dig them.

Dixondale Farms defines short, intermediate, and long day onion types as follows:

Short-Day Onions
  • Start bulbing process when day length reaches 10-12 hours
  • Mature in 110 days when planted in the south during winter or early spring
  • Mature in 75 days when planted in northern states in late spring
  • The earlier you plant them, the larger they get
Intermediate-Day Onions
  • Start bulbing process when day length reaches 12-14 hours
  • Will produce nice-sized bulbs unless you live in far south Florida or south Texas
  • Mature in 110 days when planted at the proper time
  • Exceptionally sweet
Long-Day Onions
  • Start bulbing process when day length reaches 14-16 hours
  • Do extremely well in northern states
  • Sweet, storage, and specialty long day varieties available
  • Excellent for long storage

Our weather has been crazy – windy, rainy, cold, followed by hot and then cold again, more rain, then hot again.  At least one of my onions set flower which is supposed to happen after the second season in the ground.   Apparently this onion was fooled into thinking it had been through two seasons.  I will probably have some that have suffered from growth starting and stopping due to the wild swings in temperature and soil moisture.  This can cause the bulbs to revert to making stalks.  (Mother Earth News)

The information sheet that came with the Dixondale Farm onion sets I planted says that as a general rule, sweeter onions don’t store as long as more pungent ones.  The food gardening guide  for onions says to use the thick neck onions first.

Thick neck onions, shallots, chives - from church garden

This correlates with the writings in  Root Cellaring by Mike and Nancy Bubel.  They say that thin neck onions store better than ones with thick necks.   This Mother Earth News article offers quite a bit of information on how to plant and harvest onions for storage.

So far, I have only harvested onions for immediate use.  I plan to follow the recommended harvest procedure, prepare some for storage and see how well I do.  I haven’t been very good about keeping records on the taste and types for the onions I have harvested so far.  I guess as a neophyte veggie gardener, I’m just happy to harvest some onions.  Hopefully I’ll improve on record keeping and fertilizing.

I’m still searching for names of  varieties that store well.  I’d rather plant heirloom onions.  I’m not ready just yet to try starting onions from seed, so I’ll keep an eye out for heirloom onion sets.

One thing that remains a mystery to me – what did I do with the cipollini onions that I thought I unpacked back in March?  Did I accidentally drop them into a package headed to the thrift store?  Am I going to discover an awful smell of rotten onions one of these days in the basement or in the garage?  Or did I dream the appearance of the cipollini onions?


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